There is power in paper. While a single sheet may be rather innocuous, despite its ability to cut your finger in irritating fashion, a robust stack of paper could easily knock a person out cold. Li Hongbo’s sculptures made from paper probably won’t be wielded as weapons any time soon; however, they’ll almost certainly be dropping some jaws.
A collection of Hongbo’s new and old work, entitled “Tools of Study,” has just opened at the Klein Sun Gallery in New York, showing off the unconventional things the artist can do with the pulp from felled trees. These paper sculptures appear at first glance to be white busts of marble, but when anyone clutches the top and pulls, the material fans out life an accordion, making it look as though the sculpture is being pulled through a wormhole. Looking at the pre-pull busts, this malleability does not look remotely possible.
Once upon a time, Hongbo worked as an editor in his native China, where he not only worked on products made from paper, but would occasionally work on books about printing and decorating books. According to interviews conducted with Klein Sun Gallery, the subject proved rather influential, instilling in Hongbo an appreciation of paper on a societal scale. Once he found his medium, Hongbo later landed on the idea of recreating busts of widely popular sculptures because he had to draw a lot of these during his formative art school years, and the subject just sort of stuck.
The sculptures are made by layering sheets of paper one by one, and attaching each with glue to create a honeycomb pattern. Eventually, these sheets grow into a prodigious stack, which the artist sets upon as though it were a block of unrefined stone for the sculpting. At the beginning, Hongbo uses a woodworking saw to create the basic shape and trim some paper-fat. Eventually, he switches to an angle grinder, and puts in the final details with sandpaper.
The result is the most creative use of paper in sculpting that we’ve seen since those internal organ displays last spring. Have a more in-depth look in the slides above.